Arms smugglers jailed

TWO arms smugglers who sparked fears of a terrorist plot when an arsenal of guns, grenades and high-explosives was discovered in Felixstowe are behind bars today.

TWO arms smugglers who sparked fears of a terrorist plot when an arsenal of guns, grenades and high-explosives was discovered in Felixstowe are behind bars today.

Suffolk customs officers, police and anti-terrorist officers were drafted in after part of the town's port was sealed off in April 2002, following the find.

Among the armoury was Semtex explosives, rocket propelled grenades, sub-machine guns, handguns, detonators and a mass of ammunition. At the time it was the largest seizure of its kind in Britain for many years.

Felixstowe customs officers discovered the haul after a VW Golf was seized on arrival from Rotterdam.

However fears of terrorist links proved unfounded when it emerged the arsenal was destined for organised criminal gangs in the east Midlands.

It is believed the cache, which was purchased for between £12,000 and £14,000, would have been used for robberies and gun crime.

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After a trial at Birmingham Crown Court Earl Bailey, 28, from Coventry, and another man - who cannot be named for legal reasons - are now each serving 12 years for conspiracy to possess an explosive substance. Each also received concurrent nine-year sentences for conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons and ammunition.

Their plot began to unravel around 6.30pm on Sunday, April 21, 2002, when a Ford recovery-type vehicle loaded with a left hand drive VW Golf of Belgian origin, was stopped at Felixstowe docks.

Customs officers carried out an initial search of the vehicle lasting several hours, but it revealed nothing suspicious.

The unwitting stooge driving the recovery truck and his female passenger were allowed to continue their journey, but the VW was impounded.

When officers x-rayed the car the next day, additional metal plates were found secured to the rear panels of the vehicle.

A vast array of firearms in full working order was found concealed inside, along with the remainder of the cache.

After the court case, Jim Jarvie, Ipswich-based head of operations for HM Customs central area detections, stressed it was very much a joint operation between law enforcement agencies.

He added: “This was an horrific collection of weapons and explosives. We were surprised at the amount that came in and are very pleased we took this off the streets and stopped criminals getting access to the explosives.”

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